By John O’Sullivan

 

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to replicate the level of performance shown in their victory over Leinster when they entertain Munster in the Guinness PRO14 this Saturday at 7:35 PM. 

 

The Westerners sealed their 35-24 win at the RDS last weekend — which was their first win away to Leinster since 2002 — through a performance built on intensity on both sides of the ball. The attack yielded four tries, while the defence was organised and aggressive.

 

Friend believes that Connacht will need to produce a similar showing against a Munster team coming to the Sportsground looking to make amends for losing away to Ulster in their last interprovincial clash.

 

“It’s a  crucial game for both”, the Australian said of the upcoming Interpro derby.

 

“I think we’ll get what you always going to get from Munster. They’re going to be physical. When they get a penalty, they’re going to kick to the corner and maul you or they’ll kick three points.  That’s how they get their points, so we’ll have to make sure we’re squeaky clean with our discipline and make sure we don’t give them easy access.

 

“When they do get in(Connacht territory) which they will, no doubt, we’ve gotta make sure that we’re as brave as we were on Saturday, which was really impressive. We know we’re going to have to bring that for 80 minutes. We know exactly what’s coming from Munster. They’re a quality outfit and they’ll have a point to prove.”

 

Friend, meanwhile, praised the leadership characteristics of his squad and that of the several Connacht players who have lead the team out as captains already this season and in the recent past.

 

Quinn Roux — who skippered the team versus Leinster — Paul Boyle, and Jarrad Butler have all captained the team this season and Friend said that their different methods of leadership have helped the squad as a whole.

 

“It’s one of the things we have been trying to build, is our leadership group,” the Australian said.

 

“You will have seen Jarrad’s been our captain, but we’ve also had Caolin Blade, Dave Heffernan, and Paul Boyle as captain and they all bring something different. Eoghan Masterson has stepped in there, too. All those blokes are in our leadership group and they all have a different way of doing it.

 

“It’s just about trying to get a blend of the best bits of their respective leadership qualities and using it at the time. Quinn certainly the way he speaks is, ‘I demand this from you and I want you to deliver for me’, whereas some of the other leaders are ‘follow me, watch what I do and see if you can emulate that.”

 

Elsewhere, centre Tom Daly complimented the culture that Friend and his coaching staff have created at Connacht and says that is has helped him  — and indeed other players — play to the best of their abilities.

 

The 27-year-old continued his impressive run of form with a try versus Leinster — which capped a strong all-round performance against his former club — and he said that the opportunity for game time with the Westerners, coupled with the team spirit at the Sportsground, has helped him acclimatize after his move to the province in December 2018.

 

“The culture is obviously brilliant here,” the Carlow native said.

 

“I think the main thing is getting minutes on the pitch. I’m just really enjoying my time here. I love Galway and I love the lads in the squad. I get on really well with Friendy as well. I think he’s such a good head coach and he’s built such a good culture at this club. I think if you ask anyone in this squad are they happy, they’re all pretty happy whether they’re playing or not.”

 

Daly said that he has enjoyed forming a midfield pairing with Sammy Arnold and that the Irish international’s work rate is helping the team, both in attack and defence. The pair have been regular partners in the centre this season and the former Irish Sevens player said that Arnold’s defensive work has allowed him to express himself in an attacking sense.

 

“I’m enjoying playing with Sammy, to be honest,” the former Lansdowne player said of his centre partner.

 

“He’s a bit of a dog on the pitch and I think and some of the work he does goes unnoticed. He brings really good line speed outside me and that gives me confidence. He does a lot of the unseen work that frees me up to carry a little bit more.

 

“We share the load quite well and we’re kinda building a bit of a combination now. He’s really easy to play with and he talks loads outside me and I’m really enjoying it and I think the move has worked out well for him coming down from Munster. I think he’s played every game this year and he’s covered a few positions, so he’s a real valuable member of that squad and he’s playing very well.”

Leinster 24-35 Connacht

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht registered their first interprovincial victory of the season after a bonus point, 35-24 win away to Leinster at the RDS Arena in the Guinness PRO14. 

 

Two tries from Guinness player of the match Jack Carty — who also kicked three penalties and three conversions — and a try apiece from Alex Wootton and Tom Daly condemned Leinster to their first domestic defeat of the season.

 

The hosts scored four tries of their own via Scott Penny, Luke McGrath, Ryan Baird, and Ed Byrne, but it was the Westerners who deservedly triumphed in a performance built on a foundation of defensive intensity and attacking efficiency.

 

From the outset, it was clear that Connacht would play with tempo on and off the ball and it didn’t take long for that approach to yield try-scoring fruit.

 

Intelligently reading a Leinster move, Carty intercepted the ball on halfway and — backing his pace — ran in a try that he converted himself to give the visitors a more than merited early lead.

 

Leinster, who were unbeaten in the 26 prior PRO14 games, were keen to attack but Connacht were resolute in defence, especially at the breakdown. Conor Oliver was proving especially strong in defence and the Westerners rolled with the host’s punches before they claimed their second try in a fruitful opening 22 minutes.

 

After a line out in the defending champions’ 22, Connacht were patient in possession before working the ball to the flank. Assisted by the considerable size of Quinn Roux, Carty claimed his second try as he powered over from close range in the left-hand corner. The Roscommon was marginally wide with his conversion, but the visitors established a 12-0 lead.

 

Leinster got themselves back into the contest when Penny — spotting a gap at ruck  — smiped in for a try. Connacht, though, realigned themselves and scored on three more occasions before the interval.

 

Carty slotted two penalties before — on the stroke of half time — Wootton touched down for a try in the left corner in a brilliant ten-minute sequence before the break. Once again showing patience in the opposition 22, the ball was worked to the winger and he crossed for a score that Carty nailed from the touchline to see the Westerners go into the break leading 25-5.

 

Leinster started the second half in strong fashion and had a try only three minutes after the resumption. McGrath showed sharp instincts to run in near the posts. Jimmy O’Brien converted and the hosts were within 13 points at 12-25.

 

Connacht’s work at the breakdown was effective and after they won another penalty at the coalface, Carty stepped up and made no error from the tee to extend the Westerners lead further, 12-28.

 

The game was played in an end to end fashion and Leinster were next to score when Baird peeled off a rolling maul to touch down in the corner. O’Brien converted to bring the score to 17-28.

 

With their tails up, the hosts continued to pile on the pressure, but the visitors defence — where Gavin Thornbury, the Masterson brothers, Sean and Eoghan, and Daly were rock solid — was well drilled and eager for contact.

 

Connacht’s line speed was forcing errors from Leinster and it was through this aggressive approach that Andy Friend’s men wrapped up their bonus-point win.

 

Running a hard defensive line, Daly managed an interception and, despite the attention of two Leinster defenders, powered his way over the line for a try which Carty converted to bring the score out to 35-17.

 

Leinster would have the final say with a score from Byrne from close range, but it was Connacht who held out for a deserved win, their first away to Leinster since 2002.

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Peter Sullivan

13: Sammy Arnold

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

8: Sean Masterson

7: Conor Oliver

6: Eoghan Masterson

5: Quinn Roux

4: Gavin Thornbury

3: Dominic Robertson McCoy

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Denis Buckley

 

Replacements: Matthew Burke for Buckley, Jonny Murphy for Delahunt, Conor Kenny for Robertson McCoy, Ultan Dillane for Quinn Roux, Cian Prendergast for S.Masterson, C.Reilly for Blade, Diarmuid Kilgallen for Wootton, Ben O’Donnell for Sullivan

By John O’Sullivan

Backs coach Nigel Carolan says Connacht will need to be at their physical best if they are to win Saturday’s 7:35 PM Guinness PRO14 kick-off at home to Benetton Rugby.

 

The Westerners will look to make it back to back wins after their 52-7 victory away to Zebre last time out and ahead of their European campaign kicking off at Racing 92 on December 13th.

 

Benetton, meanwhile, were defeated 26-19 by the Dragons in their last game, but Carolan says that Connacht will need to be at their best and follow the same game plan that saw them defeat the Italians 41-5 last season.

 

“Last year we played them and we won 41-5, in the second or third game of last year. We referred it to briefly during the week. What won us that game last year was physicality. It was an extremely physical game. Looking back at the end of last season, that was one of the most physical games of the season,” he said.

 

In that game in October 2019, the Sportsground team also kicked intelligently and Carolan says that accuracy — as well as being efficient when presented with try-scoring opportunities — will be the key to victory again on Saturday evening.

 

“We know we’re going to need to match them physically. They have a huge pack and they need to be moved around the pitch,” the former Connacht player said.

 

“We need to match them physically upfront and in the set-piece. That level of accuracy, every time you get a chance you’re going to need to take them. They have a dangerous back three and if you kick loosely to them you’re going to create problems for yourself. We have to make sure that when we kick, we kick accurately and we get contests in the air.”

 

In Connacht’s last home game, a 20-14 loss to the Scarlets, the weather alternated between strong winds and torrential rain. Carolan maintains that his team’s gameplan respects the weather, but they will stick to their principles.

 

“You’ve got to respect it,” the former Ireland under 20’s head coach said of the conditions.

 

“Obviously, the wind has a big influence on how we play the game. It’s just the types of kicks you gotta put in. If you gotta kick the ball into the breeze, it’s a more contestable kick and you set yourselves up quite differently. That’s nearly on a weekly basis and daily basis in training as well. It’s something that comes with the territory here and we have to deal with the weather and we manage that the best we can.”

 

Elsewhere, centre Tom Daly says that he is enjoying covering multiple on-pitch roles for Connacht this season. Already, the 27-year-old — who scored a brace of tries in the victory away to Zebre — has played at centre and fly half and has covered the wings from the bench.

 

Daly — as shown in the win away to Edinburgh — is also comfortable with kicking for goal and he says that he enjoys the responsibility.

 

“Yeah, obviously it’s something(goal kicking) I have done for a long time. I would have kicked for the Irish under 18’s, 19’s and 20’s and throughout my time at Leinster I would have done a lot of goal kicking,” the Carlow native said.

 

“Obviously here, Jack(Carty) and Fitzy(Conor Fitzgerald) have been going really well so maybe the opportunity hasn’t always come to place kick, but I have always been practicing and I knew I was going to be ready when the chance did come. That came pretty early against Edinburgh and that went pretty well, so hopefully, Friendy(Andy Friend) and Nige(Nigel Carolan) will look at that and see it as a viable option for me to goal kick and to cover ten.

 

“I think some people thought I was just thrown in at ten against Edinburgh and it was something I had never done before. But it’s something a practice quite a lot here and it’s something I would have done quite a lot of coming up through the age grades. I feel pretty comfortable there(at ten) and pretty confident. If it means I get more game time and I’m on the pitch more often then I’m happy to play wherever,” the former Irish Sevens player said.

 

 

Zebre 12-47 Connacht

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht returned to winning ways in the Guinness PRO14 after a 47-12 victory away to Zebre.

 

The visitors, through Sean O’Brien, a brace from both Tom Daly and Alex Wootton, Sammy Arnold as well as eight points from the boot of Jack Carty and a penalty try, scored seven tries in a performance of accurate attacking and stout defending at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

 

The win wasn’t the only positive as O’Brien — after almost two years out of action with injuries — returned to playing and Ultan Dillane made his 100th appearance for the Westerners with a second-half cameo off the bench to cap a great days work for Andy Friend and his squad.

 

It was the hosts who enjoyed the better start, however, and they had a try in the opening minutes when Tommaso Boni — running an intelligent trail line to collect an offload — dotted down for a try. Antonio Rizzi added the extras to put the Italians into a 7-0 lead.

 

Connacht reacted well to the concession of the try and grew into the game quickly, with Guinness Player of the Match Colm Reilly and Carty managing proceedings well. With the territory given to them by the half-backs, the visitors added two penalties from Carty to reduce Zebre’s lead to one point.

 

In the ascendancy in terms of territory and pressure, the Sportsground men were rewarded when O’Brien barged his way over the line, bursting through two would-be tackles, for Connacht’s first try. After a rolling maul, Shane Delahunt made significant headway with a carry and O’Brien followed suit by picking from the base and powering over. The conversion went narrowly wide, but the visitors were deserving of their try and their 11-7 lead.

 

The Italians went in chase of their second try of the half, but their efforts were foiled by excellent interventions from Eoghan Masterson — who expertly stole a Zebre line out deep in the Connacht 22 — and John Porch,  whose brilliantly timed tackle prevented what could have been a try for the hosts.

 

It was Connacht, and not the Italians — whose every effort was repelled by the visitors’ strong defence — who showed their efficiency in attack, who closed the half out with tries, with two coming in quick succession.

 

Wootton, after Reilly’s searing break and Porch’s sharp pass, crossed for a well-worked team try and then the winger — as the hosts attacked once more — went the length of the pitch after intercepting Rizzi’s pass five metres from his own line to score. Carty converted the latter to see Connacht lead 23-7 at the break.

 

The Westerners started the second half in a similar fashion as they ended the first and they had a try not long after the interval when Arnold — with Connacht playing with an advantage — powered over in the right-hand corner. The conversion drifted narrowly wide, but the Irishmen had built a commanding 7-28 lead.

 

Flexing their attacking muscles, another try would soon come from Connacht, again in the right-hand corner. This time it was Daly, showing remarkable strength to power through tackles, who wriggled over the line to take the score to 7-33.

 

Connacht made a host of changes thereafter — including the introduction of Dillane for his 100th cap for the province — and were reduced to 14 men when Abraham Papali’i was shown a red card for a high tackle. Zebre took advantage of the extra man almost straight away when hooker Marco Manfredi scored a try which Rizzi failed to convert.

 

The visitors would have the last say, however, with two more tries. First, a penalty try was awarded when a powerful rolling maul was dragged down.  Then Daly completed his brace of tries after collecting Conor Fitzgerald’s kick through to touch down and seal a fantastic win and day for Connacht.

 

Connacht team:

(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Sammy Arnold

13: Tom Farrell

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty

9: Colm Reilly

(8-1)

8: Jarrad Butler

7: Sean Masterson

6: Sean O’Brien

5: GavinThornbury

4: Eoghan Masterson

3: Jack Aungier

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Denis Buckley

 

Replacements: Paddy McAllister for Buckley, Jonny Murphy for Delahunt, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Aungier, Ultan Dillane for Thornbury, Abraham Papali’i for Masterson, Peter Sullivan for Farrell, Kerins for Reilly, Fitzgerald for Carty

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht defence coach Pete Wilkins says that the Westerners will need to show a high level of game management to win their Saturday 5:15 PM kick off away to the Dragons in the Guinness PRO14.

 

In Connacht’s last game, they left the Scottish capital with a bonus point 37-26 victory over Edinburgh. The win was underpinned by the Sportsground teams excellent exit strategy and efficiency in attack, with scrum-half Caolin Blade and out halves Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly expertly pulling the strings. 

 

Against a mobile and skilful Dragons pack, marshalled by their quality half-back pairing of Rhodri Williams and Sam Davies, Wilkins believes that Connacht will need to show the same qualities that saw them take all five points at Murrayfield on their trip to Rodney Parade.

 

“I thought in that Edinburgh game, it was one of the best examples of game management that this team has produced, certainly in my time here,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 

 

“The way our 9’s(Caolin Blade) and 10’s(Conor Fitzgerald and Tom Daly) controlled the game, with their kicking from our half of the field and their kick selection — of when to go long, when to go for touch, when to go for contestable kicks in the attacking half of the pitch — I thought they managed it really effectively. 

 

“I think their 9 and 10 are really important for them,” Wilkins said of the Dragons’ game plan. 

 

“Rhodri Williams at 9 and Sam Davies at 10, I think both of them have effective kicking games, whether that’s contestable kicks or clearing kicks. It’s not often you see 9’s consistently hitting the half-way line when they’re kicking for touch from rucks or from mauls and Rhodri Williams brings that ability for them to clear their lines really effectively. 

 

“How we can pressure those kicking games will be important. Under their new coaching staff, they’ve got, there’s an organisation about them, an intent to play and if you give them front foot ball they will offload. 

 

“You’ll get show and goes from Sam Davies, you’ll get quick throws and you’ll get offloads from the forwards and little tip ons. Things that will really test our ability to be cohesive in our defence, in terms of being really well spaced and watching the ball really well to make sure that we’re applying pressure. 

 

“The kicking game, the tempo and the improvement in their organisation are the things we will be wary of going into this game,” The Englishman said. 

 

Abraham Papalii’i made his first start of the season in Edinburgh. The New Zealander number 8 made a big impact, carrying for 24 metres from five carries and beating two defenders. Wilkins is excited by the former Rugby League player’s potential and has backed him to continue improving. 

 

“He’s been a great addition to the squad,” the defence coach said. 

 

“The power and physicality — especially around the ball carries — is clear for all to see, even in those few minutes he had in the unfortunate Munster game. With that comes an ability to offload and to get others involved in the game. Certainly that’s something I think we’ll see more and more of as he gets more game time. 

 

“Defensively, very similar to his carrying, he loves to hit hard. He loves to be in the game, to be around the ball and to be contributing. That physicality and that power of the tackle technique is something that, if we can continue to work on the accuracy and consistency of that,  allied with his natural power we can get someone who is a really effective defender. The more he plays the better, from all aspects.”

 

Meanwhile, back-row forward Paul Boyle says that seven of his Connacht teammates being called into the Irish squad for the Six Nations gives him an extra motivation to eventually follow them to international selection. 

 

Bundee Aki, Dave Heffernan, Quinn Roux, Kieran Marmion, Jack Carty, Ultane Dillane and Finlay Bealham were all part of Andy Farrell’s squad for the recently finished Six Nations.

 

The 23-year-old has been an integral part of the Westerners squad since his debut in January 2018 and the Gorey native is confident that — provided he continues to play to a high standard — he can win a place in future Ireland squads. 

 

“If you play well enough, you’re going to be picked,” Boyle said of the path to winning Irish caps. 

 

“I know that if I play well enough here and put in outstanding performances week in and week out that I’m going to get picked. As you can see with the seven guys that we got selected for Ireland, if you’re playing well enough you’re going to get picked.

 

“I just use that as motivation to try and get better every day. It sounds simple, but I try to improve every day and improve every game and hopefully try to force my way into selection.”

By John O’Sullivan

Connacht returned to winning ways in the Guinness PRO14 with a 37-26, bonus-point win away to Edinburgh. 

 

A brace of tries from Alex Wootton, as well as a touchdown apiece from Caolin Blade, Sammy Arnold, and Shane Delahunt —  with Conor Fitzgerald(3) and Tom Daly (9) both adding points from the tee — sealed the win for Andy Friends Westerners in a performance of brilliant attacking execution.

 

Without seven of their Irish contingent, the visitors — who made several changes to their team after the loss to Cardiff Blues two weekends ago — started with intent and they scored the first points of the night when Fitzgerald confidently slotted a penalty.

 

Edinburgh responded well, however, and scored the first try of the night when Nick Groom — the Scots’ captain — sniped over from short range after his pack put significant pressure on the Connacht line. Jaco van der Walt added the extras to make the score 7-3 in favour of the hosts.

 

Fitzgerald, making his first start of the campaign, was running the Westerners backline with authority and with a massive penalty kick for touch gave the visitors a line out in the Edinburgh 22.

 

Blade, after the line-out gave Connacht possession close to the hosts line, then scored the Irish teams first try of the game when he, in a move of sheer ingenuity,  — tight to the touchline on the blindside — cleverly grubber kicked ahead, before catching his own kick to touch down.  The conversion was wide, but the score was deserved for the Westerners after a strong start.

 

One try soon became two when Fitzgerald, who was given territory by the powerful carries of the pack — with Abraham Papali’i especially prominent in the carrying stakes — stabbed a grubber kick through that Arnold caught to give Connacht their second try.

 

The Westerners were playing with a huge degree of pace and confidence and they scored their third try of a highly entertaining half when Wootton — whose intelligent trail line saw him collect an offload  — touched down after brilliant run from John Porch down the left-hand touchline.  Daly, who had moved to out-half to replace the injured Fitzgerald, slotted the conversion and Connacht found themselves 20-7 to the good.

 

There were further scores in a highly engaging half when Daly accurately kicked a penalty at goal and Mike Willemse — touching down at the tail of a rolling maul — powered over for the hosts to take the half time score to 23-14 in favour of Connacht.

 

Chasing the victory, Edinburgh started the second period in strong fashion and had their third try when Willemse — once again the benefactor of a strong rolling maul — crossed the whitewash. The conversion was wide, but at 23-19 the game was delicately poised.

 

Blade was managing the game excellently for the Westerners — with his accurate box kicks a great source of territorial gains — and he applied this influence again when his grubber kick through in the Edinburgh 22 found Wootton to touch down for his second try. Daly slotted the extras to take the score to 30-19.

 

With confidence coursing through the team, Connacht completed the win with their fifth try. A sharp and incisive line from Delahunt gave the Irishmen territory in the home teams 22. Then, after some hard carries from the pack, the hooker smashed his way over for a try that Daly, whose kicking was peerless throughout, converted.

 

Edinburgh would have the final score when Andrew Davidson powered over from close range, but it was Connacht’s night and they held out to secure a brilliant win, 26-37.

 

Connacht team:

(15-9)

15: John Porch

14: Sammy Arnold

13: Tom Farrell

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Conor Fitzgerald

9: Caolin Blade

(8-1)

8: Abraham Papali’i i

7: Jarrad Butler

6: Paul Boyle

5: Gavin Thornbury

4: Eoghan Masterson

3: Jack Aungier

2: Shane Delahunt

1: Denis Buckley

 

Replacements: Paddy McAllister for  Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Aungier, Johnny Murphy for Delahunt, Tiernan O’Halloran for Arnold, Peter Robb for Fitzgerald, Colm Reilly for Blade, Cian Prendergast for Masterson, Oliver for Papali’ii

Connacht Rugby have announced that Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Shane Delahunt and Conor Kenny have all signed contract extensions with the province.
 
The signings come as a boost to Connacht as they continue to finalise their squad ahead of the 2020/21 season. Daly, Robb and Robertson-McCoy have all signed two-year extensions to keep them at the Sportsground until the end of the 2021/22 season, while Delahunt and Kenny have signed one-year extensions with the province.
 
Tom Daly joined Connacht in December 2018 and made his debut in the interprovincial derby with Munster in January 2019. In the 12 months since he has played over 20 times for Andy Friend’s side. Daly has previously been capped for Ireland at U20 level and is also a former captain of the Ireland Rugby 7s team.
 
Centre Peter Robb featured prominently in Connacht’s Guinness PRO12 winning season when he made 12 appearances throughout that campaign. The 25 year old has recovered from a number of recent injuries and has amassed 10 appearances so far this season.
 
Dominic Robertson-McCoy is now in his fourth season with Connacht. The New Zealand born Irish-qualified tighthead has made 50 appearances in the Connacht jersey – 16 of them coming in the current campaign.
 
Shane Delahunt joined Connacht through the Academy in 2014 and made his debut for the province in September of that year. The 26 year old also featured in Connacht’s Championship winning season in 2015/16 while still an academy player. He has a total of 74 appearances for Connacht.
 
Conor Kenny is another player to have come through the Connacht Academy, playing his club rugby with Buccaneers RFC and Connacht Schools with Garbally College where he won a Senior Cup medal in 2015. He has made 5 appearances in the Connacht senior side so far this season.
 
Commenting on the latest contract extensions, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We are delighted to have Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Shane Delahunt and Conor Kenny all signing contract extensions with Connacht. During our Champions Cup and PRO14 campaigns we have already seen the depth we need in the squad to perform on two fronts. We expect to have more announcements in the coming weeks as we are working to finalise our squad going into the 2020/21 season”.

Connacht 27

Gloucester 24 

A last minute try from Robin Copeland deep into injury time sent the Sportsground crowd wild and secured a win that looked unlikely when they trailed 13 points to Gloucester’s 24 with 4 minutes remaining. Connacht had dominated possession and territory throughout but some vital errors inside the opposition 22 looked like they would cost them the game.

When Shane Delahunt got over for Connacht’s second try with just three minutes on the clock the home side turned the momentum of the last 20 minutes. Copeland’s try came at the end of an extraordinary 20 phase sequence of play that saw Tom Daly offload to the replacement number 8 who ran in under the posts.

It was Connacht who had drawn first blood when outhalf Conor Fitzgerald kicked a penalty in the 14th minute. It was an important score for the 22 year old as Connacht had been reduced to 14 men when Eoin McKeon picked up a yellow card four minutes earlier. After a sustained period of pressure and a try already disallowed, Caolin Blade crawled over on the half hour mark. When Fitzgerald landed the conversion Connacht looked in control as they stood 10 points to the good.

That dominance was to be short lived though as Gerbrandt Grobler got in for a Gloucester try 2 minutes after Blade’s effort. While Connacht had another chance on the stroke of half time, the advantage remained 10-7 to the home side at the break.

Gloucester came out with a renewed enthusiasm in the second half and within five minutes were in front with a Mark Atkinson try which they failed to convert.

When Billy Twelvetrees got Gloucester’s third in the 66th minute, the away side were driving for a bonus point win. They didn’t have to wait long for the try and Atkinson was in again in the 69th minute. At this stage, with Gloucester winning 24 to 13, even the most optimistic Connacht supporters would have thought a win was almost impossible and even a losing bonus point was unlikely.

But the home side showed incredible belief and and when replacement hooker Delahunt got in, the momentum and the crowd were right behind Connacht.

Copeland’s try in injury time will be added to the many magical Sportsground moments that Connacht have witnessed in the Champions Cup. Their never say attitude tees them up nicely for the series of interpro fixtures over the Christmas period.

Munster at home are first in that trilogy – they come to the Sportsground on Saturday December 21st. Its expected to be another cracker!

Tickets available here.

Connacht Scorers:

Tries – C Blade, S Delahunt, R Copeland

Conversions – C Fitzgerald (3)

Penalties – C Fitzgerald (2)

Connacht: Jack Carty,  Niyi Adeolokun (Tom Daly),  Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade ( Stephen Kerins), Peter McCabe (Denis Buckley), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt), Dominic Robertson McCoy (Finlay Bealham), Ultan Dillane,  Joe Maksymiw (Niall Murray), Eoin McKeon (Eoghan Masterson), Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle (Robin Copeland)

Russia 14-42 Connacht
 
Two almost identical tries from winger Stephen Fitzgerald set up a comfortable win over a Russian side playing their final World Cup warm up game before departing for Japan next week.
 
Russia were competitive for large parts of the game and found themselves within one converted try of Connacht with 68 minutes on the clock.
 
When Stephen Fitzgerald latched onto a Niyi Adeolokun kick ahead to touch down it looked like Connacht would pull away and when he repeated the trick four minutes later, the result was never in doubt.
 
Connacht had the perfect start to the game when Tom Farrell’s grubber kick was picked up by his midfield partner Tom Daly who ran in under the posts. Darragh Leader added the conversion and went on to convert all of Connacht’s six tries with a one hundred per-cent kicking success off the tee.
 
By half time Connacht had added a second try when Leader scored and converted Connacht’s second try. Russia did respond on the scoreboard when their fullback and captain Vasily Artemyev broke from the Connacht 22. With just seven points between the teams at half time, it seemed that Russia may be capable of causing an upset.
 
Connacht started the second half the way the started the first when Jonny Murphy was on the end of a strong maul. Russia responded again with a try in the 55th minute but it was all one way traffic from there to the finish.
 
Fitzgerald’s brace then ended the game as a contest as Paul Boyle scored Connacht’s sixth and final try with two minutes remaining.
 
Connacht Team (Replacements in brackets)
(15-9) Darragh Leader, John Porch (Niyi Adeolokun), Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald, David Horwitz (Conor Fitzgerald), Angus Lloyd (Stephen Kerins), (1-8) Denis Buckley (Matthew Burke), Jonny Murphy (Tom McCartney), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Conor Kenny), Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane), Eoin McKeon (Eoghan Masterson), Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland (Jarrad Butler).
 

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce that Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald and Angus Lloyd have all signed contracts with the province ahead of 2019/20 season. The trio had all featured for Connacht on loan periods during the current campaign and have impressed Andy Friend and his coaching team.
 
Tom Daly joined Connacht in December 2018 and made his debut in the interprovincial derby with Munster at the start of January. The centre has since gone on to make six further appearances in a Connacht jersey, scoring a try against the Glasgow Warriors in February. Daly has previously been capped for Ireland at U20 level and is also a former captain of the Ireland Rugby 7s team.
 
Stephen Fitzgerald joins his brother Conor who signed his first professional contract with Connacht this week. Fitzgerald made his debut in the interprovincial win over Ulster at the end of 2018 and like Daly has featured seven times in total for the province, also scoring a try against Glasgow. At international level, the winger has featured for the Ireland U20s, representing his country at the 2015 World Under 20 Championship.
 
Angus Lloyd will return to Connacht have joined on a short-term contract in December 2018, providing injury cover at scrum-half and playing twice for the province in that time. He has previously been capped by Ulster and Munster in the Guinness PRO14.
 
Announcing the latest contracts, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said that all three signings were agreed after impressive loan periods during the season: “We are delighted with the contribution Tom, Stephen and Angus made to our squad during the current season. All three came into the squad at a time when we needed cover due to injuries and international call ups and all three have fitted in seamlessly to our squad. They are three important additions to our plans for next season. This is further good news on our squad having signed three players from our academy earlier in the week. I am happy with our recruitment programme so far for next season and we expect to make further announcements before our squad is finalised.

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